Thursday, December 31, 2009

December "Finishers Wanted" Report

Once again, I had some help, but I was able to cross a few things off the list! Michelle did one of the unfinished crafts. Maybe we'll get to more of them in 2010.
Brad helped me clean out the garage. I didn't want to put my Christmas present (a new freezer) in a dirty environment :)
David turned our slimy pool deck into a safer place to walk. Thank you David! This one I did all by myself - and it's been on the list for probably ten years - and that's play Beethoven's Sonata #29 for Wayne. That took just a little bit of practice every day for three months, and it was a great experience. I didn't get it up to speed (what should have taken 45 minutes took me 75), but that's okay. In fact, I think I'll be able to do the last three sonatas in the book by the end of 2010!
There you have it. I'm happy with the progress that I made this year. I'll need to keep hacking away at the infamous list, but I think it's time to come up with a different goal for the new year. I wonder what it will be!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Easy Candy Recipes

Works for Me Wednesday
More Easy Candy Recipes
It's time for another Works for Me Wednesday. (Go here to see what works for other people - Kristen has a beautiful idea for a monogrammed ornament that doesn't look difficult to make.)

Last week I made Cranberry Clusters because I thought that that's what Michelle had requested. When she came home from school, I was informed that I misunderstood. She didn't want "clusters," she was looking forward to "bark." Well, even though it's quick and easy, I've been busy with other things and haven't made it yet. But I found a picture for you!
For Chocolate Bark, all you have to do is melt chocolate (we usually use chocolate chips, whatever variety strikes our fancy), stir in whatever we feel like (in this picture it's dried cranberries and almonds), spread it out flat on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet and stick it in the fridge until it sets up. Then break it into pieces. One of our favorite combinations is white chocolate and candy cane pieces.
We did find time, however, to make Steven's request for an easy treat - Oreo Balls. We first had these at a ward "chocolate contest" where they were brought by the Cub Scouts. Yes, it's easy enough for 8 year old boys to make. Crush 25 Oreo cookies and mash in 8 ounces of cream cheese. Roll into balls and chill until firm. Then melt chocolate and dip them in it. (That step is kind of tedious.) You can drizzle a second color of chocolate over the balls if you want to get fancy. Don't they look delicious? (Actually, this is a great treat to have around our house because the adults - who are counting calories - don't like these - they're too rich - but the kids do!)
We're always on the look out for new easy treats to try. What are some of your favorites?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Story Books

Memorable Monday Moments

This week we were invited to share family night with several friends. For our lesson, we shared the host family's tradition of reading this book:Their kids are all grown now, and ours just about are, but I think it's a wonderful tradition to remember for grandchildren. This particular book contains 24 little "ornament books" and they would read one each night in December and then hang it on the tree.

Here are some books that we have used for family night lessons in the past. "The Legend of the Candy Cane" was a grandparent gift to our children, complete with a box of candy canes."Silent Night, Holy Night" tells of a Christmas during World War I when enemy troops called a ceasefire and shared Christmas with each other. Isn't that what Christmas is all about? I love the artwork and quotes in "This is the Season," which is based on a favorite Primary children's song.
I know there are more. What are some of your family's favorite read-aloud Christmas stories?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

18,000 Days Alive!

One of the blessings of having young adult sons is you learn some very interesting useless facts. Today Wayne has been alive for 18,000 days! We're so glad to have him around. I could list 18,000 things we all love about him, but I don't think there's enough room on this page.

Here's where you can go if YOU want to waste some time - "days alive calculator"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Quarter Century!!!

Happy Birthday to You, David!

This year I thought I'd post the "David birth day" story. I looked in my journal, and the entry was way too long to put here, so here's the synopsis:

On December 6th, the "official" due date, I drove from Clearfield (where we had moved the week before) to Provo for a doctor's appointment. Nothing was happening, so I went home, and my sister Louise came with us. On Sunday after church we drove her back to Provo. Because I had been having mild contractions that whole day, I didn't feel like driving the 100 miles back, so we dropped Weston off at a friend's house and went to the hospital. They wouldn't admit me, so Wayne and I decided to hang out at Louise's apartment for a while. I took a nap and then watched some tv and we headed back to the hospital after my water broke at 2 AM. David was born at 4:03 AM, weighed 8 pounds 12 ounces and was 20 inches long. Unfortunately he had a high white blood cell count, so I went home a couple of days later without him. Fortunately, by that Friday everything was normal and we were able to start our new life with two little boys, and a brand new job as well. To see more birthday pictures, go to last year's post. But here's one taken when David was a few months old, and his dad was 25 years old. Is there any resemblance?

Thanks for being a wonderful part of our family for the past 25 years!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

WFMW - Super Easy Candy Treats

Works for Me Wednesday
Super Easy Candy Treats

It's time for Works for Me Wednesday - head on over to We are THAT Family for lots of great ideas!The other day Michelle noticed some craisins on the counter and excitedly asked if I was making Cranberry Clusters. Unfortunately not, I had added them to the chicken sandwiches for lunch and had forgotten to put them away. But, today I pulled them out again and did make the candy. It took me 15 minutes, including 3 phone interruptions, it's that easy. We also added pecans this year just to see if that made them even better. Cranberry Clusters

2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/8 cup corn syrup
2 teaspoons water
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips with the corn syrup in the microwave. (This takes 30 seconds.) Add the water and other 1/3 cup chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in the cranberries and nuts. Dollop onto waxed paper. Chill until firm.

Here are a couple of other super simple candy treats.
First is Rocky Road, our favorite Christmas tradition! Simply melt one pound of milk chocolate, stir in 3 cups mini marshmallows and 3/4 cup chopped nuts. Pour into a buttered 9x9 pan and chill until firm.

Rolo Pretzels are our newest candy tradition. Arrange "waffle" (regular mini ones work as well) pretzels on a baking sheet and place an unwrapped Rolo on top. Bake at 300° for 4 minutes, then press a pecan half on top.

Please don't misread the directions and bake them at 400° for 3 minutes! Otherwisethe caramel will seep all over. Or the chocolate will burn. Yes, this is a Kiss and not a Rolo, but the beauty of this recipe is its adaptability.

Here's what they can look like when you follow the directions properly:

Monday, December 7, 2009


Memorable Monday Moments
It's December!
Most of our family nights in December are centered around Christmas traditions. Last week it was Michelle's turn for the lesson. She shared President Kimball's quote on the importance of remembering, and then announced that we would set up the tree to help us remember the Savior all month long. So we did, and we had a great time. The past few years I've set up and decorated the tree by myself, and I decided that it's a lot more fun working together!

"When you look in the dictionary for the most important word, do you know what it is? It could be remember. Because all of you have made covenants - you know what to do and you know how to do it - our greatest need is to remember. That is why everyone goes to sacrament meeting every Sabbath day - to take the sacrament and listen to the priests pray that 'they may always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them.' Remember is the word. Remember is the program." (Spencer W. Kimball, 1968)

Yesterday I found this quote by Elder Nelson. Not only is "remember" the most important word in the dictionary, it's the main responsibility of my life's mission. (I figure I have to remember before I can be repentant and righteous.)

"Jesus' responsibility as Advocate, Savior, and Redeemer was foredetermined in premortal realms and fulfilled by His Atonement. Our responsibility is to remember, to repent, and to be righteous." (Russell M. Nelson, 2000)

Have fun remembering this Christmas season!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

It's Citrus Time

Works for Me Wednesday
Peeling Oranges

This morning as I put oranges in the lunch sacks, I was reminded of one of our "not to be missed" Christmas traditions which is to wake up on Christmas morning and find an orange in the toe of every stocking. Since I figured that might be a common tradition, I thought I'd share something I learned from my mom years ago on a different way to cut oranges. (And that reminds me that when the kids were little their favorite way was as "wheels" - just make a bunch of 3/8" horizontal slices. That seemed to work better than the 1/4 wedges that I grew up. And, of course, there's the traditional way of just peeling it, and I've even heard of sticking a straw through the rind and drinking the orange!)

But, to get back on topic. Here's a way to cut an orange that eliminates all the rind and membrane, so that it looks all pretty in an ambrosia salad. You start by using a serrated knife to cut away the peel, getting all the way to the juicy segments.Then you cut each segment away from the membrane.And eventually you have a pretty bowl of fruit.If you want more step-by-step pictures, go here. And if you want to see others' ideas, go here.

Have a wonderful December!

Making Progress

November's UFOs

Once again I finally crossed something off the list that wasn't really *my* chore, but I've been nagging about it for over a year, and now I can stop that!

The summer of 2008, Steven decided that he'd wash all the windows as his Family Life Service Project (one of the merit badge requirements). We had a busy summer, and then another busy summer. However, he really wanted to be able to play video games over the Thanksgiving break, and he'd already done all the easy things on his Scouting to-do list, so out came the bucket and sponge. He did a good job, and was able to thoroughly enjoy his game time. I was questioning my sanity over allowing this (because it did require some adult direction and supervision) in between shopping and errands and laundry and packing, but we survived, and now we have shiny windows. Thank you, Steven!
Remember what happens when you procrastinate? (Go here for the whole story.) Well, this year I was determined that processing the Halloween pumpkin would NOT be an unfinished task, and took care of that early in November!
The pretty pumpkin - we never did get around to turning it into a jack-o-lantern - turned into yummy pumpkin pureƩ. (And thanks goes to Brad for helping with the food processor while I was busy with Relief Society stuff.)
And finally, I made progress on some "crafting". Maybe this "to-do" is stretching it as to actually accomplishing something, but I'm hoping by documenting it I'll continue to make progress. In November I looked through the closets and made a list of all the unfinished craft projects. Since the majority of them relate to Christmas, I'm hoping for a two-for-one deal for December: finish some and cross them off the list AND feel the Christmas spirit! Come back in a month to see if the plan works!

Here's the list. Which should I do first?
  • frame Wayne's cross-stitch
  • finish granny square blanket using old yarn
  • use up green fleece scraps
  • do something with empty 6x6" scrapbook
  • do something with empty 8x11" scrapbook
  • 5 tree ornaments to paint
  • 5 Noel/Family knick-knacks to paint
  • 4 wood nativity sets to paint
  • 6 ceramic ornaments to paint
  • wood Christmas puzzle to paint
  • "stacked box snowman" to paint
  • complete "Welcome" vinyl frame
  • do final touches on Relief Society wall-hangings

Oh, and after months and months and months of procrastinating, I finally got my hair cut and bought new glasses. But you don't need any pictures because I still look the same. I'm not very adventurous when it comes to changing my style :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving on the East Coast

Happy Thanksgiving to You!
Once we moved across the country, and were actually in the same time zone as brothers and sisters, our "new" Thanksgiving tradition became visiting them. We've alternated between North Carolina and Virginia, often making visits at both places on the same trip. This year starts another "new" tradition, because the North Carolina family decided to move to Texas. We'll miss them, but change is part of our tradition!

2002 Jumping on the trampoline and skinning a deer with cousins in Virginia, then installing a basketball pole and playing computer games with cousins in North Carolina.

2004 This year we tried climbing to the highest point in Virginia, Mt. Rogers. Because the snow was too deep, only Wayne and Brad actually made it to the top, but we all had a great time!

Dinner in Virginia the day before Thanksgiving (my parents moved across the street from my sister, so now we get to visit two houses!)
and a picnic in the park the day after in North Carolina.
and the same thing again in 2008!

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into our evolving family traditions and that you're all having a happy day wherever you may be! Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving at Home

While I thoroughly enjoy visiting family, I also thoroughly enjoy having family visit me. And I love putting together a Thanksgiving feast. So, some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories are of when we were able to have the whole gang at our house! I only wish it could happen more often.

Our first Thanksgiving in our first house. No pictures of the actual dinner, or the newly-reupholstered dining room chairs, but we got 8 inches of snow that weekend and the boys had fun!

1993 Another snowy Thanksgiving weekend! This time Uncle Richard joined the Whitaker relatives. (I'm trying to decide if I like the "overlay" photo option. They seem to be a little busy, and are probably meant for people over scenery. What do you think?

1996When we moved to California, our trips to Seattle had to end. After a couple of years of getting together with friends, it was great to have a Beckstrand reunion for Thanksgiving. This year instead of playing in the snow, the cousins played in the hot tub and at the park. And don't forget the video games either!

2003 Once we moved to Florida, Thanksgiving includes trips to the beach. This year the East Coast Whitakers drove south for the holiday.

2005 And the next time we stayed home, it was the Beckstrand family's turn to visit. We also went to the beach and played in the pool this year, but by this time we had a digital camera, and there were WAY too many photos of the holiday vacation to post here. At least there are also finally pictures of the table and turkey.

It sure will be interesting to see what the future brings. Maybe we'll get some more Thanksgiving dinners at home with lots of friends and relatives. Give us a little warning, and we'd love to have you over for turkey and stuffing!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving in Seattle

I had grand plans for a Thanksgiving countdown similar to last year's (go here for the first one and keep clicking "previous post" for the rest if you want a refresher course on our favorite pies) and had even chosen ten "side dish" recipes. However, the month got away from me and now we're down to just a couple of days before the holiday. It would also be nice to compile a list of things that I'm grateful for, but that's not going to happen here either. Instead I'm frittering away my time scanning in old pictures (when there are dozens of other, but less-fun, things on the to-do list) because I was reminded of our annual trips to Grandma's house. So, that's what you get this year - a mini countdown of Thanksgiving memories.

First stop - Thanksgiving in Seattle:
We decided that with two young children and limited vacation time from work, we would drive through the night, hoping that with the kids asleep we wouldn't have to deal with as many rest stops on the 14 hour trip. That might have worked out okay if we hadn't tried No-Doze to help us. Not a good idea! (The drive was fine, but the after-effects were awful.) In spite of the rough start, we had a great time. (That's David and his cousin Nathan on the bottom left.)
1988 This year Weston had fun playing with Aunt Julie and some leftover Halloween makeup/goop as well as creating pictures on LiteBrite. And there's the obligatory "line the cousins up on the couch" picture as well. (Nathan, Brett, Weston, David & Brad)

We spent Thanksgiving with Grandma and Grandpa, but also visited some friends. The boys enjoyed playing in their tree house.

1990The number of kids on the couch is growing! We also enjoyed a visit to the Children's Museum, in spite of the wet, rainy weather.

This year we had a sunny day for our "day after Thanksgiving" excursion, this time a trip to the zoo.
That's all I remember of our Thanksgiving trips to Seattle. Those are some great memories, and we wished they could have continued. However, life changes and we needed to adjust our tradition. Stay tuned to see what the next few years brought.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Heritage Dinner

Memorable Monday Moments
Heritage Dinner
One of the suggested activities in the Family Home Evening Resource Manual is to have a heritage dinner (see #3). We did that in January 1988 and served Cornish Pasties from England. As part of the festivity, the boys decorated placemats using the flag of Great Britain (although I didn't take of picture of that). Actually, I didn't take a picture of the dinner either, but this picture was taken the following month. I have no idea which lesson it went with, but we had the following lessons that February (and I know this because Wayne's really good about putting the date given in the manual): "Delight in the Law of the Lord," "The Purpose of the Commandments," "Know the Lord's Laws," and "Family History Stories." Which one do you think this activity matched?